Pitt women take down No. 2 Arkansas in Round of 32 thriller, 4-3

Photo: Matt Hawley/University of Pittsburgh.

Ashton Gordon wore a smile on her face when the final whistle blew. The fifth-year defender helped defeat her former side, Arkansas, to help the University of Pittsburgh Panthers clinch their spot in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. The Panthers defeated the Razorbacks, in Fayetteville, on Friday night with a 4-3 final. And, yes, as the score indicates, the match was a back-and-forth-affair.

Ellie Coffield was the hero for the Panthers, scoring the final and game-winning goal off a corner kick. The clock was left with only a minute and a half. The Razorbacks tried one more push, but it was a forgone attempt. Coffield’s first goal of the evening — also late in the second half — came off a rocket. As the saying goes, “Ellie Coffield only scores bangers.”

Her second goal, the game-winner, came off a header, as she stationed herself right in front of goal. Game, set, match, and the Panthers claimed victory.

As mentioned, the match was a back-and-forth affair, with the Panthers earning the first goal, courtesy of Amanda West. It was West’s 50th goal of her Panther career, and her 11th of the season to tie Sarah Schupanky and Samiah Phiri. However, the Razorbacks quickly equalized, with Bella Field finding the back of the net. Arkansas thought they were going into the half with a one-goal lead, thanks to a strike from Ainsley Erzen, but Keera Melenhorst scored on a nearly picture-perfect counter attack.

Coming out of the halftime break, both sides were feeling each other out once again. However, in the 69th minute, Bea Franklin found herself alone on a corner kick and put the ball past Panthers goalkeeper Ellie Breech. However, her name-sake Coffield scored two goals in quick succession — her first coming in the 77th minute and the game-winner happening in the 89th minute.

Before the game even began, there was plenty of motivation for the Panthers to beat Arkansas. Of course, the NCAA Tournament is survive and advance, win and move on. However, as Chloe Minas stated before the match kicked off, the team wanted to win for Gordon, who transferred from Arkansas to Pittsburgh in 2021.

Ahead of the match, Gordon told Pittsburgh Soccer Now that she is approaching the match against her former team as another regular contest. “It definitely sparked something,” Gordon said, moment’s after the Ohio State victory last Saturday. “I have a ton of respect for Arkansas and the coaches and players there. But I am very excited to play that game.”

Now Gordon, Coffield and the Panthers will advance to the Sweet 16, with a trip to Tennessee on the docket. Memphis took down Notre Dame, 3-2, for a major upset. Memphis is ranked at No. 6 in the bracket, while Pitt is seeded at No. 7, meaning they will go on the road. The Panthers will face off with Memphis on Sunday, November 19, at 7 p.m. ET.

The sport of soccer is Rachael Kriger’s area of expertise. Kriger covers Steel City FC for Pittsburgh Soccer Now and provides various columns, with occasional work with Pitt Women’s Soccer. Elsewhere, Kriger is the co-managing editor of Last Word on Soccer and the social media coordinator and lead Liga MX Femenil writer for Equalizer Soccer. She is a member of the official NWSL Media Association and the North American Soccer Reporters, serving as the NASR’s Vice President after two years in the role of Communications Director.

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